After seeing The Matchmaker, by Thornton Wilder, last night, this little play started coming out during a midnight writing splurge with Katherine. I like bits and pieces of it, though I'm a) not sure where to go from here, b) the story turned a different direction on me in the last page, c) not sure anyone but me finds it particularly funny. So, here you all. We'll see if this gets any comments.
Oh, and I'm not sure when exactly this takes place. Oh well.
[Joseph is sitting at a writing desk, on which is a typewriter, staring bleakly at it with one hand holding his head.]
Maid: [enters and places breakfast on a table.]
Joseph: [to himself] Yes, I do. And what would you... what would...how would...what could...
Maid: Your meal is ready, sir.
Joseph: Could. Would. [begins to type] And what would you do...[stops typing] Do.... Do, sir? Or do, Mr. Ranslat? Or do, Matthew? Sir, Ranslat, Matthew...
Maid: [shakes her head] The sooner he finds a wife outside a book the better. [maid leaves]
Joseph: [continues mumbling]
Maid: [after the doorbell rings, brings on-stage Ben] Mr. Benjamin Trusles to see you, sir.
Joseph: [does not answer, staring fixedly at his typewriter][maid leaves]
Ben: Ah! Joseph, good morning to you, too–
Joseph: [holding up one hand and typing with the other] Just–one moment, please.
Ben: Writing again, I see. [sits at the table and helps himself to the breakfast]
Joseph: And... turned, leaving abruptly. [leans back and rubs his eyes][looks around tiredly] What? It’s dawn already.
Ben: Nine o’clock, actually. I wouldn’t be here a moment sooner if it wasn’t. Have you been up all night?
Joseph: Yes. But you will not believe the full three pages I have to show for it! Here, here, have a look. [grabs the paper]
Ben: [eyebrows lifted] Three pages, you say?
Joseph: “The stars blinked above the mote as luminous as fireflies, blinking on and off...”
Ben: You used blink twice in a sentence–and I’ve never thought either stars or bugs to be luminous.
Joseph: No, that can be fixed. Just wait. “Matthew was restless, nervous to see what would happen in the morning’s battle. He could barely contain an odd mixture of joy, excitement and dread. Such a mixing of emotions–”
Ben: Joseph, you may want to consider eating. You can read me all of your marvelous story after a good rest and some food.
Joseph: [sitting] I haven’t written this well in decades, it feels. The last time I was so inspired to stay up the whole night was when I was nineteen and had just seen King Kong the first time.
Ben: That’s very nice. Try the toast, it’s lovely. [after a moment] I took the liberty of giving your invitation to Samantha Madison and Kelly Perks.
Joseph: What invitation?
Ben: The one to have a dinner with them tonight at Grand Square.
Joseph: I never told you to ask them that!
Ben: But you expressed a wish for it.
Joseph: I have never given you any reason to believe I so much as liked either Miss Samantha or Kelly. Much less do I have that sort of money. I’m a writer, for goodness’ sake, not a politician. And my muse is not nearly as constant as taxes.
Ben: To be sure, to be sure. But that’s what credit is for. And it does not matter much what your opinion of the girls may be, considering I like them both considerably.
Joseph: [mutters] Pens and seals, Ben.
Ben: You have the oddest sort of insultish expressions I’ve ever heard.
Joseph: I have no idea how I would even begin to cover a meal between four. What if one of them orders steak? I’ll never write myself out of this pit.
Ben: Well, perhaps this sign of good luck–that is, you writing all night with such progress to show in the morning–is a sign that you shouldn’t worry. Really, how can you expect to be inspired in this musty old room?
Joseph: It has a lovely view.
Ben: But not society or talk. You need to crawl out of this hole and have another look at the world. Perhaps that would help you.
Joseph: [sighing] I suppose.
Ben: [rises] Perfect! I’ll see you at six, then.
Joseph: Yes, goodbye. [Ben exits. Joseph sits at the typewriter again.]
Matthew: [peaks in and then slips into the room, in medieval costume] Dinner! Impossible! There’s barely enough money for ink.
Grace: [enters also, in costume] Dinner would be a good change of scene. It is musty in here.
Matthew: Musty is nothing like it. I call this good, used air. Consistent air, if you will. It never changes. It’s always been here, always the same.
Grace: No, no. The sweet out of doors is better. A breeze now and then, perhaps a trip through the country. Dinner is a good start. Yes, a very good first step.
Matthew: I hate the public.
Grace: That is why you’re in a book.
Matthew: A book in progress. We will never escape at this rate. Dinners indeed!
Grace: [shakes her head][the maid opens the door and they both duck off stage]
Joseph: [looks up quickly] Yes?
Maid: I was just getting the dishes, sir.
Joseph: Oh, thank you. [rises] I think I’ll go to bed.
Maid: Very good, sir.
Joseph: [pulling at his tie uneasily] I hate the public, Ben.
Ben: [sitting at their table] That is likely why you’ve ended up a writer. Relax, it will be easy. I’m sure you haven’t lost all your people skills if your characters still talk with you.
Joseph: It’s very drafty in here.
Ben: This, my friend, is called fresh air.
Joseph: But there shouldn’t be fresh air in a restaurant. It isn’t–right, somehow. It should be smoky and crowded and–musty.
Ben: No, that is your room.
Samantha: [entering with Kelly][smiles and holds out her hand to Joseph] Good evening. It’s so good to see you again.
Joseph: [shakes her hand] Hello. [Ben and Kelly greet each other and they all sit]
Samantha: So, I hear you’re working on a new book.
[Grace and Matthew enter in the background to watch]
Joseph: Ah–yes, actually.
Samantha: It isn’t the same as the one you were writing last time?
Joseph: Well, actually...
Ben: [trying to make a joke out of the awkward moment] It’s the first rule of pen, my friend, not to ask an author what happened to his last project.
[they all laugh a little nervously]
Matthew: I hated those old characters.
Grace: They lacked many desirable qualities.
Matthew: I wonder what we lack? How could we improve?
Grace: Perhaps if I were ugly, it might throw an interesting twist on the book. You know, that would solve the whole love at first sight problem–
Ben: Joseph, the waiter is waiting to take your order.
Joseph: [starting a bit] Oh–yes, I’ll have just a turkey sandwich. Thank you.
Kelly: What do you do out of doors, Mr. Joseph?
Joseph: Out of doors?
Kelly: Yes, you know, to exercise and such. To keep up your health.
Joseph: I walk around the block, now and then.
Matthew: Not often. It’s too cold. And there isn’t anything to see we haven’t already seen a million times.
Grace: But it is a bit diverting, you know.
Samantha: What is your current book about?
Matthew: Aha! Finally some good conversation!
Joseph: [lighting up] Well, see, it’s placed in medieval England. There is a knight commanding in one of the armies, which is preparing to war with France. They have only small numbers compared with the French, and everyone is a bit doubtful about the hope of the mission. Matthew–he’s the main character–he is not optimistic at all. Meanwhile he falls in love with a daughter of a commanding officer who came to help keep camp.
Ben: [kicks him under the table. Joseph looks at him, confused]
Samantha: I hope it ends happily.
Joseph: Oh, yes, of course. See–
Ben: That’s all very fascinating. So what have you two ladies been doing recently?
Matthew: Small talk. I hate small talk. Mostly because I can’t figure out how to do it gracefully. I always end up blundering over something or another.
Grace: It’s very embarrassing, but a necessary skill, you know.
Matthew: [snorts] I’d prefer to keep to my own business. And if I have something to talk about, I will talk about it, not uselessly discuss practiced topics.
Grace: Perhaps if you took pains to learn you wouldn’t be sitting here mutely while they all talk over you. You know, you’re giving the impression of a very lonely, anti-social scholar.
Matthew: Scholar. Scholars are good. There should be one in the story. You know, there could be a scholar there recording events. And then...
Ben: Ah, here’s the food. Thank you, waiter.
Joseph: [begins to eat]
Ben: So, Joseph, what was that question you were dying to discuss with Miss Samantha?
Matthew: Question? What question? Did he have a question?
Joseph: [staring at Ben blankly]
Grace: He’s trying to get Joseph into the conversation. Quickly, think of something!
Joseph: What is your favorite book?
Ben: [barely keeps from rolling his eyes]
Samantha: I’m afraid I am very fond of Shakespeare.
Matthew: Shakespeare! There’s something you don’t find often in women.
Joseph: [smiling] He is one of my favorites. Which play do you like the best?
Samantha: Oh, As You Like It, to be sure.
Grace: I believe I like this girl.
Matthew: She does have potential.
Joseph: I think mine would have to be Twelfth Night. Though I do enjoy his tragedies as well. [begins to quote some lesser known speech from Romeo and Juliet]
Samantha: [finishes the quote with him and they both smile]
Matthew: She has a good deal of potential.
Ben: Well, it is wonderful seeing both of you thrive in your own sad states.
Kelly: Oh my, look at the time, Samantha. We’d best be off. Thank you both. Goodnight.
Joseph: I hope to see you again soon.
Samantha: [smiles to him and goes]
Joseph: Ah, be still my heart.
Ben: You positively amaze me.
Joseph: I amaze myself. [glances at him] But in what way are you impressed tonight?
Ben: It is impossible to separate you from your books. Or from other people’s books. You talked of almost nothing but characters in Shakespeare all night, yet I fancy you think yourself very successful.
Joseph: Yes, I think I did remarkably well.
Ben: As a rare acquaintance, yes. As a companion or possibly a beau, no.
Joseph: [frowning] Why not?
Ben: Because if you begin talking literature you will never get beyond that. And there are only so many times you can quote the entirety of Shakespeare’s plays without it getting a little bit creepy.
Joseph: I think she enjoyed herself.
Ben: [shrugs, standing] Perhaps I’m wrong.
Joseph: We’ll see. I’ll prove it’s possible to woo a girl on an appetite of literature only.
Ben: Will you, now?
Joseph: Yes. From now on, whenever I see her I will speak only in quotes from books, whether my own or others’. You will see.
Ben: This, my friend, is really talking. Shall we put a bet on it?
Joseph: Alright. Five dollars.